Always Within Reach
God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far each one of us.
In his famous speech to the Greeks in Athens, Paul didn’t begin with the death and resurrection of Christ. Instead, he started by connecting with their culture and their beliefs, acknowledging their statue to “the unknown god”(Acts 17:23). “It’s this God,” he explained, “that I want to tell you about.”
The Greeks had a long, rich history of philosophy, and Paul wanted to let them know he appreciated their culture. The history of nations, he explained, is the story of God’s work to create man, populate the earth, and establish states. None of this was or is out of God’s sovereign control.
Ultimately, God’s design for human history isn’t about governments, rulers, or philosophies; it’s about salvation. Into every culture, God puts glimpses of grace to capture people’s attention and prepare them to hear the message of Christ. Countless stories of missionaries are about people on riverbanks in the remotest jungles of the world and people in bustling cities whose hearts were prepared by God. Then, when a missionary brought the message of Christ’s forgiveness, they were ready to embrace it.
On a local, personal level, God has put symbols of His grace in the lives of our neighbors, our friends, and our family members, so that He is always within reach of those with seeking hearts. Our job is to be like Paul, to study people, to ask a few questions to discover those glimpses of grace in each person’s life, then tell our story of finding Christ. He’s not far from each person we know.
Many times people complain that God is not using them. God cannot do much through us until He gets in us.
In today’s devotion I want to share one of my great pastor friend’s stories. Pastor Francis grew up in the bush(rural) in Kenya. None of his family were Christians and as a matter of fact none in his village had ever heard about Christ. His father was a renowned witch doctor and the family were nature worshippers. They worshipped rock, trees and animals as gods. One day he cried out in his search for peace that the true and living God would be made known to him. He shared with me that at that moment Christ appeared to him and what he felt inside was beyond words. He still knew nothing of the gospel but a few weeks after his encounter with Christ he went to a nearby town in which T.L. Osborne, an American missionary was preaching open air meetings. He said that as Rev. Osborne begin to describe Jesus, he knew that it was Christ who had appeared to him and that day he received Him as Savior and Lord. When he went back and told his family, his father threw him out of the house and then buried him in effigy, pronouncing him dead to the rest of the family.
I tell this story and there are thousands of others to say to us that God has been and is at work making Himself known to those who seek. One of the arguments for accepting all the other religions alongside Christianity is that there are those who have never heard the truth. My friend’s story along with others tell us that God is connecting with people in unimaginable ways when they cry out for Him, even if they haven’t heard the gospel.
This doesn’t minimize the fact that we as Christians have been given the mandate to go and tell. It just may be that even before we share the story of Christ, Gods has already come near. Maybe like my friend they just need affirmation that what they have experienced is truth.
This brings us to a critical point. Having a personal encounter and experience with God- and more than one- ought to be the Christian norm. Nothing gives us faith like an experience with the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, every salvation is accompanied by an experience. Something stirs our hearts and souls. We become aware for perhaps the first time an overwhelming sense of guilt for our sins and our need for help. When we ask God to come into our hearts, we experience a lifting of burdens, sorrow, and the weight of sin. As a preacher of the Gospel, I have not only experienced this myself but have seen visible changes and witnessed peoples faces change from sorrow, guilt, and even anger to joy, peace, and happiness. I remember one man in particular. He had led a life of sin and had gone so deep that when I met him he was involved in the occult as a Satanic high priest. That morning as he invited Christ into his heart, I watched a visible transformation on his face and in the days to follow a transformation of his entire life. His change was such that it impacted almost thirty others, many who were involved in the occult and drugs. Their changes were pretty dramatic too. In fact the changes that God wrought in them brought them to me that January asking to be baptized. That small country church had no indoor, heated baptistery. All our baptizings were done in a creek near the church. I told them I’d be glad to baptize them in April when it was warmer, but they insisted we couldn’t wait. For them the changes that God had made in them were so wonderful that they refused to put off anything that God had for them. So off we went that Sunday afternoon and gathered at the creek. It was cold. As a matter of fact it was so cold there was ice along the banks. But that mattered not to those 30 who had been lost and now found. The funny story was that I had asked Sherry to lead a verse of Amazing Grace as I made my way into the creek. Somehow she heard the entire four verses of the song. Needless to say by the time we finished I was numb from the waist down. But what joy that day as those individuals told how they never had known such a God who had made Himself so real to them.
God is ever active and ever working to respond to those who are seeking. Our world today is filled with seekers. Many have no clue what they’re seeking. Like the Greeks they are seeking the “unknown god” and like Paul, our mission is to introduce them to Christ. Christ has completed His work to bring humanity to the Father. The Holy Spirit is hard at work convicting and convincing the lost to seek God. The only piece that’s in question is you and I. Will we go and will we tell them the good news of a Savior? The “trinity of redemption” is that Christ died for their sins, the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sins, and who have experienced forgiveness of our sins make an encounter with “the unknown god” accessible.
If you never had an experience and encounter with God, today would be a good day to have one. Why do you ask God for one? If you have had at least one encounter, remember there’s more after that one. As a matter of fact the opportunity never ceases. If you have someone in your life that’s still searching, be the bridge. Don’t try to drag them or push them by some religious thing. Meet them where they are. That’s what Christ did and what we see Paul doing in our story today. And in the words of an old, old song: “We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”